PR In The Age Of Twitter

by Kathy Gill on 14 September 2010

in Twitter Tips

AdAge spar­ked a flurry on Twit­ter Mon­day with a juicy essay, RIP, the Press Release (1906–2010) — and Long Live the Tweet, by @SimonDumenco.


Tweet­meme Cap­tu­res The Retweets

The flurry fea­tu­red a lot of straight ret­weets, a few “huhs?” and at least three rebut­tals. Mine was one of them:

Had you con­fi­ned your trea­tise to cele­brity media, cul­ture and publi­city, it’s unli­kely that I would have seen your column. (I rarely read AdAge.) Howe­ver, the Twit­ter tease meant it sho­wed up in my tweets­tream. (Link bait?) And the swee­ping gene­ra­li­za­tion in the head­line then deman­ded a reply.

Jeremy Pep­per (@jspep­per) remin­ded us that the “press release is dead” meme (a variant of “The sky is falling!”) cir­cu­la­tes perio­di­cally before nai­ling a key fallacy in the essay:

[T]o quote Simon, “as the celebrity-industrial com­plex goes, so goes the rest of cor­po­rate Ame­rica.” For­get that publi­city firms are the last firms to social media, often being beat (by years) by their con­su­mer tech­no­logy sis­ter firms. For­get that publi­city and the enter­tain­ment com­plex aren’t com­pa­ra­ble to cor­po­ra­tions that have to abide by SEC disc­lo­su­res and other sticky things like that.

But, maybe, just maybe Twitter’s limi­ta­tion to 140 cha­rac­ters is just not enough to dis­se­mi­nate news, even with links to a blog or page that is, well, I guess it’d be a press release huh?

And from Jason Mollica (@Jas­Mo­llica):

It’s up to PR folks to help repor­ters and con­su­mers that are wading through the sta­tic to direct them to clea­rer chan­nels.  The press release helps to do that.  In the last two weeks, I have writ­ten a hand­ful of relea­ses.  Their dis­tri­bu­tion was enhan­ced by Twit­ter and Facebook.

The flurry on Twit­ter reflec­ted atten­tion that the article was recei­ving on the AdAge site itself:


RIP Article Dri­ves AdAge Site Traffic

Here are two very salient com­ments. First, from Kat­Ma­di­son:

With all due res­pect, Simon, publishing an article about the death of the Press Release in Ad Age is iro­nic. I believe this is part of the pro­blem and disconnect.

Publi­city is not PR and vice versa. Of course Twit­ter (and other social media) plays an impor­tant role for popu­lar and brea­king news and is hel­ping evolve new com­mu­ni­ca­tions mediums. But as others have noted, it’s is not all about cele­bri­ties and earthquakes.

Second, from Came­ron Berry:

Press relea­ses aren’t dead, so let’s try to be a bit less argu­men­ta­tive and bit more infor­med, shall we? If not, I’ll have to keep saying that adver­ti­sing is dead. Which of course it is.

Then there was a com­ment from Stan that made my eye­brows raise:

I’d rather read one cohe­rent 250-word news release from a real source than a bunch of dis­join­ted tweets. But then, wri­ting a 140-character tweet doesn’t take much heavy thinking.

A note from me:

Dear Stan, it is far more cha­llen­ging to craft a mea­ning­ful 140-character tweet. It is almost without excep­tion that it takes more effort to squeeze mea­ning­ful con­tent into a small pac­kage, be that a speech or a tweet.

A Bit of Con­text (other­wise known as history)

As a remin­der that the press release is alive and kic­king, last year Brian Solis wrote:

[T]he press release has evol­ved more in the last decade than it has over the cen­tury thanks to the pro­li­fe­ra­tion of the Inter­net and most notably, the Social Web.

Solis trac­ked the his­tory of the press release in the digi­tal age:

  • 1997: Busi­ness­Wire deve­lo­ped the Smart News Release, inte­gra­ting hypertext
  • 2001: PRNews­wire intro­du­ced Mul­tiVu, a mul­ti­me­dia release (MMR) service
  • 2006: Todd Defren birthed the Social Media Release
  • 2008: PitchEn­gine launched a ser­vice for crea­ting, hos­ting, and publishing bran­ded Social Media Relea­ses and Social Media Newsrooms

Today, press relea­ses are inde­xed by Goo­gle, dis­tri­bu­ted via or, or refashio­ned as blog posts. They are pro­mo­ted via Tweets, Face­book, MyS­pace, Lin­ke­dIn, email.

The press release is not dead!

Aside: A Per­so­nal Exam­ple Of Twit­ter As Promotion

As an exer­cise in per­so­nal bran­ding and as an expe­ri­ment, yes­ter­day I deci­ded to pro­mote my post. Although Wired­Pen posts are syn­di­ca­ted to Twit­ter auto­ma­gi­cally, I’ve never actually tried to get readership.

adage TweetDeck

Cus­tom Search In TweetDeck

First, I set up a search in Tweet­deck for the key­words Adage Press Release.

Then I began reading.

I looked for peo­ple who had done more than hit the RT but­ton, peo­ple who had expres­sed an opi­nion about the essay. I then went to their Twit­ter page. If it looked like they were open to con­ver­sa­tion (a quick judg­ment) and that they were fairly digi­tally savvy (based on Twit­ter bio), I then sent them a Tweet with my link.

Many replied; seve­ral retweeted.

It was fun; it didn’t take too much time; and I dis­co­ve­red some inte­res­ting peo­ple to follow or add to my Twit­ter lists.

This mor­ning, Regan Com­mu­ni­ca­tions asked for per­mis­sion to publish my essay on their blog. This is icing on the cake, so to speak, ampli­fi­ca­tion far beyond anything I might have set for a goal, had I been doing this with ROI in mind.

One More Thing

There is another thing that Twit­ter is doing that should have edi­tors, mar­ke­ting folk and PR prac­ti­tio­ners thin­king about: Twit­ter is exten­ding the life of a post.

Dis­co­very is a pro­cess that occurs across time, not just at the time of publi­ca­tion. This means that artic­les have the poten­tial to have a lon­ger life. Wit­ness the AdAge remark about the RIP essay making it to the top five two days run­ning. Would that have hap­pe­ned without Twit­ter? I doubt it.

Here’s another cle­ver res­ponse from Lau­ren Fernandez:

I [the press release] get com­plai­ned about a lot. Some send me in bulk to jour­na­lists with no rele­vance, I get faxed (in 2010!) to obs­cure pla­ces of the globe, and I even get rip­ped apart and edi­ted by super­vi­sors on a daily basis. But, really? You’re calling for my early death? Sure, Twit­ter is the new kid on the block, and all shiny. He might be a “rela­tionship buil­der” and an easy way for you to con­verse with reporters….

Oh, right. You should have been doing that even before social plat­forms came on the scene. Go figure that I’m the one always bla­med for not being used correctly.

:: This first appea­red at Wired­Pen : Follow me on Twitter!

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